By Isaiah Eka
Hundreds of children and relations of late teachers in primary schools protested in Uyo on Monday against non-payment of their parents’ gratuities by Akwa Ibom State Government.
The protesters, under the aegis of Association of Next-of-Kin of Late Primary School Teachers, barricaded the gate to the Government House for several hours.
They demanded to be given attention by Gov. Udom Emmanuel.
Leader of the association, Mr David Essien, said the affected families had written several letters but to no avail.
Essien said the dead teachers had served the state government for upward of 35 years before retirement.
“Some of the dead teachers served and retired as far back as 1999, yet nothing to show for services they rendered for the state before they died”, Essien said.
Another protester, Mr Nsima Akpan, said his late mother, Magdalene Akpan, served for 35 years at Government Primary School, Mbiabam Ibiono in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area.
Akpan added that his mother died about three months to her retirement.
“Up till now, the family has not received anything like benefits in form of gratuity or pension as part of her reward for serving the state up to that period.
“Each time we protest, the government will tell us to come today or come tomorrow.
“We are tired of this kind of unfulfilled promises because some of those who are supposed to benefit from this facility are sick with no money to take them to hospital.
“Some who were in schools have dropped out because there is no money to fund their education’’, he said.
Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress in the state, Mr Etim Ukpong, said the state government remained insensitive to the plight of the dead workers in spite of several interventions by unions.
Ukpong said the next-of-kin of primary school teachers had since been forwarded to the state governor for approval about two weeks to the protest.
He added that the union was yet to receive response from government.
Ukpong, who also doubles as the Chairman of the state branch of the Nigerian Union Teachers, called on government to identify priorities.
He said the state government recently received some funds from the Paris Club.
According to him, labour unions have advised government to use part of the money to clear the backlog of workers’ pensions and other indebtedness.
“I cannot stop any aggrieved person or group of persons from protesting. We have done our best.
“Government does not seem to appreciate our efforts to mediate. The government is even trying to rubbish labour leaders; they are not even communicating with us,’’ Ukpong said.
An official from the office of the Head of Service, who would not want his name mentioned, said that leaders of the association were still meeting with the Head of Service, Mrs Ekereobong Akpan.